LAREDO, Texas – The Border Patrol agent who allegedly went on a killing spree this month is a former Navy corpsman who led a quiet, suburban life with a wife, children and respected job.
But Juan David Ortiz, 35, also wished to "eradicate all the prostitutes" and befriended sex workers before allegedly shooting them execution-style and dumping their bodies in rural areas, law enforcement and county officials said.
Police are still trying to determine what exactly triggered Ortiz to allegedly launch the spree that left four people dead in this border city. He's been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Authorities have named Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Ann Luera, 42, and Humberto Ortiz, 28, as the victims. A fourth victim was not named. All died between Sept. 3 and Sept. 15, their bodies found within miles of one another.
"It's difficult to get into the mind of a killer," Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Monday at a press conference. "But what we have right now and what we do know is that Ortiz carried out these murders in a cold and callous way."
Police said Ortiz confessed to the killings and pointed police to the bodies. Investigators are still looking into what may have turned the 10-year Border Patrol agent to alleged homicide. But, during interviews, the suspect told investigators about his disdain for Laredo's sex worker community, said Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina, the county's top executive.
Asked what he hoped to accomplish with the alleged killings, Ortiz told investigators: "To eradicate all the prostitutes."
Ortiz served in the Navy from 2001 to 2009, earning the rank of second-class hospital corpsman, according to U.S. Navy public affairs. He did his basic training in Illinois and served at a variety of bases during his time in the service, including at the Navy Medical Training Support Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He also received a Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon during his tenure.
Ortiz earned a Bachelor's degree from American Military University and later a Master's degree from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, according to court records. He joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2009, working with the agency in San Antonio, Cotulla and Laredo, eventually rising to intel supervisor.
But his seemingly normal life in Laredo was underscored with repeated encounters with sex workers on San Bernando Avenue in Laredo. Ortiz befriended the workers who congregate on the street, putting them at ease before driving them to remote areas and killing them with bullets to the head, according to arrest affidavits.
As the bodies were found and police began noticing similarities in the shootings, Ortiz used his position as intel supervisor to monitor leads in the investigators and avoid arrest, Tijerina said.
At one point in the investigation, police were mistakenly looking for a black Cadillac sedan – not the white pickup Ortiz owned, he said.
"He was being given all the intel and he knew they weren’t looking for him," Tijerina said.
Emboldened, Ortiz continued socializing with the sex workers, gaining their confidence to lure them into his truck. "He had entrusted his victims to come along with him several times," Webb County Sheriff’s Office Chief Federico Garza said. "He knew the victims, and the victims knew him."
The spree began to unravel Friday, when one of his alleged victims managed to escape from his truck and flag police. Members of the Webb County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers cornered Ortiz hours later in the bed of a pickup truck on the third floor of a hotel parking garage.
Garza said investigators were still working on a personality profile of Ortiz to determine why he allegedly did it, but that, during interviews, the suspect voiced "dislike" for the sex worker community. "Whatever anger he had inside of him, we don’t know yet," he said.
Border Patrol officials said Ortiz only had a "minor" disciplinary mark on his record at the agency.
"There was nothing in his background certainly that would have alerted CBP or have indicated Mr. Ortiz was capable of anything like this," said Juan Benevides, special agent in charge of the Border Patrol's office of special responsibility in Houston.
Whatever his motives, Ortiz would have kept killing if given the chance, Tijerina said.
"I think he would have done a lot more serious harm," he said. "If it wouldn’t had been for that girl that escaped, we would still be looking for our guy with more dead bodies."
Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis
USA TODAY writer Alan Gomez and Chris Ramirez of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times contributed to this report.